Cryptocurrency payments startup TravelbyBit is helping turn the central Queensland sister towns of Agnes Water and 1770 into Australia’s first all-singing, all-dancing crypto-friendly tourism destination by providing its technology to local small businesses.
TravelbyBit, which was founded last year, allows merchants to accept cryptocurrency through a point of sale system that’s been designed to be easy to use and to protect vendors from the notorious fluctuations in the currencies.
In January, the startup launched in several stores in the Brisbane Airport. Now, travellers can use cryptocurrency from the moment they touch down until they reach the fish and chips shop at the beach.
TravelbyBit co-founder Caleb Yeoh tells StartupSmart the community of Agnes Water and 1770 has been “very open to technology”.
“They’re moving forward with really cutting-edge blockchain technology,” he says.
In fact, the whole scheme was driven by local business people — specifically local real estate agent Gordon Christian, and a client who asked him for ideas on how to accept cryptocurrency at a local business level. It was Christian who approached TravelbyBit with the idea.
When Christian approached Yeoh, TravelbyBit was already working with Advance Queensland to bring cryptocurrency to rural parts of the state.
“Bitcoin is the world’s first truly global currency,” Yeoh says.
“It makes a lot of sense that it is used in the travel sector.”
Once plans were underway, Christian and Yeoh were contacted by a foundation representing a specific cryptocurrency, the XEM, which decided to send a team of its own representatives to the town to test the crypto-tourism experience.
The NEM Foundation is now providing 5% cashback to travellers using XEM, Yeoh says, in a bid to encourage early adopters.
“The tech is very new and there is a lot of fear and misinformation raised by those who don’t understand it,” Yeoh explains.
He also admits that it was Christian who got most of the local partners on board.
“Having a local champion really helps,” he says.
Christian tells StartupSmart that when he floated the idea with local businesses they were largely familiar with cryptocurrencies already, and jumped on board without needing much persuasion.
His vision was to offer “a full package” through cryptocurrency, including restaurants, cafes, beauty salons and excursions, and even train, coach and transfer tickets booked through the local travel agent.
Today, excluding service stations and supermarket chains, there is a crypto-accepting option in the towns for anything a traveller might need, Christian says. More than 30 local businesses are on board with the initiative.
As of last weekend, tourists from Japan, Vietnam and around Australia were already travelling to Agnes Water and 1770 and using their cryptocurrency to buy their coffees and souvenirs, while also meeting with the locals and attending town hall meetings to discuss the practicalities of the initiative.
But Christian says this is just the beginning.
“It’s quite a unique marketing opportunity,” he says.
“We could have increased tourism from this … attracting a new, boutique market that’s emerging.”
“A lot of people have made a lot of money [in cryptocurrency] in the last couple of years. There are not a lot of places they can spend it,” Yeoh adds.
He also sees opportunities in the future for local resorts hosting cryptocurrency conferences; welcoming early adopters who have a lot of Bitcoin to spend; and cementing Agnes Water and 1770 as a holiday hub for the blockchain community.
“It’s quite powerful, the blockchain community,” Christian says.
“We want serious tourists … it’s up to the community.”